When walking through the French Quarter in New Orleans, you must be impressed by the historic housing styles Creole cottages. The typical Creole cottage is composed of one Chimney, two gabled windows, two doors and two windows. Comparing with these structural elements of Creole cottage, building a Scrum Master community also needs to take consideration comprehensively about the key elements, such as business goal, purpose, methodology, tools and alignment.
The “Creole Cottage” pattern is abstracted from a real-life experience. It’s a practical and hands on pattern to help building a Scrum Master community while solving company-wide problems to achieve business goal. It can be said to kill three birds with one stone.
The whole session covers the contents below:
1. Background (3 min)
2. “Creole Cottage” pattern introduction (5 min)
3. Real case experience sharing (17 min)
4. Lessons learned and summary (5 min)
1. Background (3 min)
The new agile organization is like a newborn baby, weak, fragile, unsustainable, threatened by growing crises. There are big barriers between scrum teams which belong to different business units, resulting in cross-team product delivery being delayed again and again; because of lack of visibility of defect data and standardized processes, complaints happen between the customer service team and development teams, such that the average lead time of live defects is even longer than the release cycle.
On the other hand, the first wave of Scrum Masters is brand new, and there is a need to build a community to grow Scrum Masters from both knowledge and a practice point of view.
As an Agile Coach, also a newcomer in a new agile-transformed company, I was given a mission to create a Scrum Master community as well as solving company-wide problems.
2. “Creole Cottage” Pattern Introduction (5 min)
A Creole cottage is a type of vernacular architecture in Gulf Coast of the United States. You can see a lot of Creole cottages in New Orleans.
Comparing the structure of a Creole cottage to building a Scrum Master community, we should take consideration of all the structural elements. The two gabled windows on the roof serve two purposes: one is to grow the Scrum Master’s agile competence, and another is to solve the company-wide problems. The chimney is the organization’s goal, giving us the business direction. The foundation of the cottage is the company’s foundation: people, organization gene, processes, the ways of working, etc. Just like how building the cottage’s foundation is important, the most essential thing to building a Scrum Master community is to create fundamental alignment. That means abstracting common interests from different departments and different roles. That’s where we start.
After we have the business goal and understanding the existing situation, the next thing to do is to close the gap – build the cottage walls. Just like the two doors of the Creole cottage, here we use two fantastic tools: Scrum and Deming Improvement Cycle PDCA (Plan-Do-Check-Act). We use Scrum methodology to develop two continuous improvement projects: one is cross-team collaboration enhancement, and the other is defect flow improvement. They are the Creole Cottage’s two windows.
Key Elements of the “Creole Cottage” pattern
1) Chimney: Business Goal
2) Left gabled window: Grow Scrum Master agile competence
3) Right gabled window: Solve company-wide problems
4) Foundation: Alignment among Product Owner, Customer Relations, Development Team, Management Team and Core Technology Team
5) Left door: Scrum methodology
6) Right door: Deming improvement cycle (PDCA)
7) Left window: cross-team collaboration enhancement
8) Right window: defect flow improvement
3. Real case experience sharing and analysis (17 min)
After I joined EF Labs as an Agile Coach, my manager Eric Azumi, Vice President of EF Labs, told me his vision is to create continuous improvement culture within the organization. He gave me a mission: Create a Scrum Master community while solving our top company-wide problems. In the company’s yearly offsite meeting, our CEO, Bill Fisher, emphasized two business goals: to reduce product defects and to break down team barriers.
After getting the goal and the business direction (the cottage chimney), I started to build the cottage foundation: to understand the existing situation by discussing with all counterparts (Technical Development Managers, Scrum Masters, Product Owners, QA Manager, Organization Designer, Developers, QAs, etc). After the kickoff meeting, we started to build the cottage’s two windows – the two continuous improvement projects: Product Defect Flow Improvement and Cross-Team Collaboration Enhancement.
3.2 How – Build cottage windows by using two tools: Scrum and PDCA cycle (two cottage doors)
I acted as the Product Owner for the two projects. All ten Scrum Masters acted as developers, dividing into two teams.
Each team focused on one project. The whole procedure was organized according to the steps below:
a. Deep understanding of the current situation.
b. Root Cause Analysis for current problems by using cause-effect diagram .
c. Project setup: Start PDCA cycle.
d. Generate prioritized project backlog: every action is one backlog item.
e. Use three sprints to implement the backlog items.
f. Weekly meet-up, inspect and adapt every sprint.
g. Product demo to the whole company
Project 1: Product Defect Flow Improvement
a. Standardized live defect process, definition of roles and responsibilities.
b. Defcon system (defect severity calculation system) .
c. Live defect reports in JIRA defect management system.
Project 2: Cross-Team Collaboration Enhancement
a. Cross-team project workflow.
b. Team Portal (electronic seat map, each scrum team’s workflow and structure).
c. Agile Salon and Agile games.
d. Badminton rallies
After making product defect data transparent, we solved many long-open defects. Average defect lead-time has been reduced. There is more effective communication between customer relation teams and scrum teams. The defect fix flow is more efficient. The feature defects report provides the management team with quality feedback, and is now in the measurement matrix of business OKR (Objectives and Key Results).
Each scrum team’s structure and profile are now very clear. A cross-team collaboration culture now exists, and teams are more integrated and likely to support each other. Cross-team project workflow now is working smoothly. Project delays due to dependencies on another team’s tasks or due to poor collaboration happen less often. Employees from all disciplines – developers, testers, customer service engineers, content developers, product owners, and super-geeks from the technology team all took part and enjoyed the agile games.
On the other hand, from the kickoff meeting to the final demo, over six months, Scrum Masters talked with their counterparts and key stakeholders, and led changes organization-wide. Their competence and influence developed and became more established during the process.
4. Lessons learned and Summary (5 min)
4.1 Similar to creating the key elements of a Creole cottage, this pattern provides a practical way for finding the key elements of building a Scrum Master community according to the real life situation of one company.
4.2 Just like building the cottage foundation, the most essential thing to building a Scrum Master community is to create alignment between all counterparts, to abstract the common interests, and to build a sturdy foundation.
4.3 Solving company-wide problems is the same as building a Creole cottage: they are all about systematic projects. Whoever is leading for change should take into consideration all aspects as comprehensively as possible, and understand the situation as deeply as possible. The organization is a system with multiple inputs and multiple outputs. One simple action might solve the problem temporarily, however the problem will come out in another place in another guise.
4.4 Scrum, besides being used for software development, can also be used for continuous improvement in an agile organization.